Evan Silva


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Matchups: He's Heating Up

Friday, October 12, 2012

Detroit @ Philadelphia

Michael Vick didn't play nearly as badly in Week 5 as some might lead you to believe. Though he admittedly got off to a rocky, fumble-filled start, Vick had Philly's offense on the move throughout the game. Dating back to Week 5, Vick has completed 38 of his last 57 passes (66.7 percent) for 411 yards (7.2 YPA), three touchdowns, and no picks in a tough division win over the Giants and narrow road loss at Pittsburgh. And I think his season is ready to hit its stride. The Lions do not play imposing pass defense, serving up a 66.1 completion rate to enemy passers and a 5:0 TD-to-INT ratio in four games. Detroit's offense also forces opponents to respond aggressively when it pours on points and yards. This can be the matchup and kind of game that jump starts Vick's fantasy season. ... Following a silent Week 4 against the G-Men, Jeremy Maclin looked to be the Eagles' featured receiver early against the Steelers. Despite RCB Ike Taylor's sticky coverage, Maclin created separation and is clearly running well after an early-season hip injury. He's also a full-time player again. Maclin's matchup becomes a lot more favorable this week against Lions rotational RCBs Bill Bentley, a struggling third-round rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette, and journeyman Jacob Lacey. DeSean Jackson gets the tougher draw, as he'll face off with LCB Chris Houston on the majority of Sunday's snaps. I think Maclin can have a breakout Week 6 game.

Last week's goal-line TD pass to Brent Celek was the tight end's first of the year. Aside from a fluky 157-yard outburst in Week 2, Celek has yet to top 65 yards in any game this season and is entrenched as a TE2. ... Pedestrian slot man Jason Avant works the same area of the field as Celek and is averaging 32 yards a game. Avant would be an incredibly unaggressive bye-week WR3. ... The Lions have a lot of big-name defensive linemen, but have never played stout run defense under DC Gunther Cunningham. They'll also be without NT Corey Williams (knee) on Sunday. Although LeSean McCoy was held in check from a rushing standpoint by the Steelers last week, he found pay dirt on a receiving score and is going to have a monster game eventually. McCoy is the No. 12 fantasy back through five games. In his last meeting with the Lions -- in 2010 against a similar-looking front four -- McCoy lit up Detroit for 128 yards and three touchdowns.

I think the Lions' early-season offensive woes have been due in some part to tough defenses, but for the most part to identity crisis. Detroit led the NFL in pass attempts last year, and defensive-minded head coach Jim Schwartz doesn't want to do that again. The Lions are already on their second starting tailback of the season -- and not because the first one got hurt -- and they could be headed toward No. 3 if Jahvid Best returns from PUP as soon as the franchise hopes. Running successfully on the Eagles is going to be a struggle. In a 180 from last year, Philadelphia's front seven is actually defending the run better than rushing the passer, permitting under four yards per carry to opposing ground attacks, and one rushing score through five games. Revealing himself to be a volume-dependent back short on big-play ability, Mikel Leshoure is averaging 3.23 yards per carry and has yet to break off a gain of longer than 15 yards on 47 touches. Perhaps Leshoure will reacquire some burst coming off the bye, but for now he's just a low-end RB2 in this matchup. ... Joique Bell is the Lions' temporary change-of-pace back, averaging eight touches over the past three games while Kevin Smith hasn't handled the rock since Week 2. Neither Bell nor Smith is a Week 6 fantasy option, and the former's value is fleeting with Best apparently on his way back.

Philadelphia hasn't sacked a quarterback in two games, which for the Eagles means they're due. They have way too much D-Line talent for the drought to continue. Philly is going to give Matthew Stafford all he can handle with a top-nine pass defense allowing a putrid 5.78 YPA and NFC-low 53.6 completion rate. The Eagles have a 6:6 TD-to-INT ratio against. Stafford will eventually pick it up, but he has a brutal upcoming three-game stretch against Philly, Chicago, and Seattle. Stafford started painfully slow, and he may not get a whole lot better in the immediate future. ... The Lions' 2012 target distribution: Calvin Johnson 43, Brandon Pettigrew 35, Nate Burleson 31, Titus Young and Bell 16, and Tony Scheffler 14. ... Megatron starts no matter the matchup. He's on pace for a 116-1,692-4 line, and the TDs will come up. ... Pettigrew is a poor player, but the ball goes to him in Detroit's offense enough to keep Pettigrew afloat as a back-end TE1. Keep in mind the Eagles are stingy against tight ends, allowing an average weekly stat line of 5.5 catches for 42 yards to the position. Only one tight end has scored a touchdown on Philadelphia this season. ... Burleson is heavily targeted, but barely averages over nine yards a catch and has one touchdown in his last six games. Don't be shocked if he begins losing snaps to Ryan Broyles after the bye. ... Young has been an early-season disappointment with one productive game out of four. Battling ongoing knee soreness, Young needs to display box-score production before becoming fantasy viable.

Score Prediction: Eagles 27, Lions 20

Oakland @ Atlanta

Whereas the Steelers got Rashard Mendenhall back after a Week 4 bye and the Cowboys will receive a defensive line injection via NT Jay Ratliff, the Raiders have no such luck. Oakland's pass defense was blown to smithereens by early-season injuries to first-team CBs Ronald Bartell (fractured shoulder) and Shawntae Spencer (foot sprain), and both remain on the mend. In their first four games, the Raiders allowed Ryan Tannehill, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Peyton Manning to complete a combined 108-of-150 passes (72 percent) for 1,153 yards (7.69 YPA), and a 9:0 TD-to-INT ratio, with a tenth touchdown coming on a rushing score by Tannehill. That's right, Oakland hasn't intercepted a pass all season. Matt Ryan is the No. 2 overall fantasy quarterback, and he should light this group up. ... Tony Gonzalez entered Week 5 ranked first in fantasy tight end scoring and distanced himself from the pack with a 13/123/1 line against the Redskins. Gonzalez is 36 1/2 years old, but he won't be slowing down anytime soon in a pass-heavy offense benefiting from linebacker and strong safety coverage between two wideouts who command constant defensive attention. The Raiders recently began using free safety Michael Huff at corner to help compensate for Bartell and Spencer. They've been gutted by tight ends since, surrendering 19 receptions and four touchdowns to tight ends in their last three games.

Ryan's 2012 target distribution: Gonzalez 47, Julio Jones 46, Roddy White 45, Harry Douglas 16, Jacquizz Rodgers 14, Michael Turner 13. ... White was the featured wideout in playcaller Dirk Koetter's Week 4 game plan (12 targets). Jones was the go-to guy last week (15 targets). Against as bad a pass defense as Oakland's, White, Jones, and Gonzalez can all get theirs. Start 'em. ... Turner retook his clear-cut lead back role in Week 5, gaining only 69 yards on 20 touches but finding fourth-quarter pay dirt from 13 yards out against a worn-down Redskins defense. Rodgers touched the ball four times on offense. The Raiders rank 24th against the run, and Atlanta's high-octane passing offense sets up scoring chances for its red-zone runner. Just beware that Turner's schedule stiffens following Atlanta's Week 7 bye. From Weeks 8 through 12, Turner will face one run defense ranked lower than 15th in the NFL. Turner's two-year penchant for slowing down late in seasons is another long-range concern for his fantasy stock. He remains a recommended sell high in all leagues. ... Rodgers continues to provide little optimism that he'll ever take the reins as a featurable back. "Quizz" excels in the pass game, but struggles to run inside the tackles and possesses unimpressive short-area burst. He is averaging 2.72 YPC on 29 carries this season.

I went back and watched all of Darren McFadden's Week 4 runs before Oakland's open date and noticed from him an inability to exploit first- and second-level running room due to what my eyes told me was diminished explosion. In Oakland's first four games, McFadden certainly displayed less violence as a runner, most notably by running out of bounds when in years past he would have cut upfield. That all sounds bad, but there are promising signs for forward-looking McFadden owners. His workload is secure, his bye out of the way, and each of his next three games come against run defenses ranked 22nd or worse. Over the last month, Atlanta's 27th-ranked group has served up 562 yards and four touchdowns on 100 carries to opposing rushers. That's a 5.62 YPC clip. Falcons leading tackler SLB Stephen Nicholas (ankle) also may not play this week. Fire up McFadden and hope the Raiders keep this game close. ... The Falcons' defense is vulnerable to the run, but they are playing some of the best pass defense in football, even after losing top cover corner Brent Grimes for the season. Atlanta ranks seventh in the league against the pass with a 5:9 TD-to-INT ratio allowed. Carson Palmer would be a poor bet as a bye-week fill-in.

The Raiders move Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey around enough that it's tough to pinpoint their receiver-cornerback matchups from week to week. My best guess is that Moore will play most of his snaps against weaker RCB Dunta Robinson, while Heyward-Bey returns from his concussion to face LCB Asante Samuel. Whereas Pro Football Focus has graded Samuel as a top-22 cover man this season, Robinson is 81st of 100 cornerback qualifiers. Moore is a strong WR3 bet, and Heyward-Bey should be on benches. ... Brandon Myers impressively secured each of his first 15 targets on the season, but lacks big-play ability and is no more than a role player in the Raiders' offense. He caught one ball for 22 yards last time out. Myers hasn't found pay dirt yet this year and will be relied upon less by Palmer with Heyward-Bey and Moore both back healthy.

Score Prediction: Falcons 28, Raiders 17

St. Louis @ Miami

The Dolphins were a consensus bottom-five pick in preseason power rankings, but lo and behold they're shaping up as a sneaky playoff contender and the AFC East's No. 2 team. After back-to-back three-point overtime losses, Miami defeated previously 3-1 Cincinnati at their place and has one of the league's weakest schedules over the next six games. Those matchups are comprised of 3-2 St. Louis, the 2-3 Jets, 2-2 Indianapolis, 2-4 Tennessee, 2-3 Buffalo, and 3-2* Seattle. Both the Rams and Seahawks games are in South Florida. The fantasy impact of the soft slate is that Miami can be competitive throughout the forthcoming stretch, allowing Reggie Bush to maintain consistent workloads. Another positive for Bush is the absence of short-yardage/goal-line back Daniel Thomas due to a second concussion in five weeks. While Bush may not be fully past his nagging knee and hip injuries until after Miami's Week 7 bye, he's a solid Week 6 RB2 against St. Louis' 18th-ranked run defense. Thomas' inactivity increases Bush's chances of finding pay dirt. ... Big-play rookie Lamar Miller will stand in as Bush's primary backup and is worth rostering in 12- to 14-team leagues as a fantasy lottery ticket. Miller is unlikely to touch the ball more than 5-9 times against St. Louis, but is averaging 5.48 YPC and could be a fantasy starter if Bush went down.

The Dolphins made an effort to get Brian Hartline the ball on their first couple of drives last week against the Bengals, though he came away with four catches and 59 yards on five targets. His pair of blowup weeks notwithstanding, Hartline is settling in as a WR3. St. Louis fields a formidable pass defense, but Hartline is Miami's go-to guy in the passing game. I'd still be more than willing to start him. ... Whereas Hartline has a more favorable matchup with Rams outside CBs Bradley Fletcher and Janoris Jenkins, Davone Bess will deal with Cortland Finnegan on all passing downs. Finnegan is a route jumper and efficient tackler in the slot. Don't expect much production from Bess. ... While Ryan Tannehill has shown a ton of rookie-year promise, he's nowhere near fantasy viable with a 2:6 TD-to-INT ratio and 1-of-5 games over 225 passing yards. St. Louis is playing tough pass defense, having allowed a league-low two passing touchdowns and intercepted eight. ... As far as bye-week, fallback option tight end plays go, I'd look at Scott Chandler, Jacob Tamme, and even Tony Scheffler before Anthony Fasano. Fasano is averaging 29 yards a game and would have to score a touchdown to remotely provide worthwhile fantasy production.

Danny Amendola isn't a prototypical No. 1 receiver, but he was a huge part of the Rams' offense as an efficient, chain-moving slot guy invaluable to a short-based passing game. Due to last Thursday night's dislocated collarbone, Amendola will be sidelined until Week 11 at soonest. We'll know more about the Rams' replacement plans once we see it play out on the field, but the safest bet is that St. Louis will lean on a rotation. Look for either Austin Pettis or Steve Smith in the slot, with a committee of Brandon Gibson, Chris Givens, and Brian Quick on the outside. An increased role for TE Lance Kendricks is also possible, although Kendricks is averaging under 18 yards per game. Avoid St. Louis' passing game in Week 6, and we'll revisit what happens next week. ... Game watchers of Cardinals-Rams know Steven Jackson has plenty of power and explosion left in his tank. But the Rams don't get him consistently involved in the passing game, and it's worth wondering if quicker rookie Daryl Richardson might give Miami's impenetrable run defense more issues this week. Ultimately, St. Louis will likely have trouble moving the ball in this matchup. S-Jax is a low-upside RB2 play who should be cheaper than ever to buy low leading up to Week 7.

Score Prediction: Dolphins 16, Rams 10

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
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